Year B : 20 May 2012
Today’s gospel reading, which follows on from
that of last Sunday, comes from St John’s account
of the farewell of Jesus to his disciples before
they go out to Gethsemane. Jesus asks them (and
us) to remain in his love by allowing his words
to remain in us. In other words, to keep his
commandment we must share his way of thinking.
Since all of us understand love in our own way,
unless we have the mind of Christ we will get
nowhere. He tells us that ‘my commandment’/
‘my words’ are “Love one another as I have loved
you.” This is the commandment of the ‘new and
eternal covenant’, to love unselfishly, to love
selflessly. His love for the disciples had already
been symbolised when he got down and washed
their feet. Now he makes clear what to ‘love
as I have loved you’ means, that greater love
which leads a man ‘to lay down his life for
his friends’. His love for his disciples is
without limit, even though they still do not
understand, even though one of them will betray
him and one will deny him. He does so because
the Father loves him and he ‘remains in the
His reason for telling us all this is “that
my joy may be in you and that your joy may be
complete.” ‘Complete’ must mean something like
‘overflowing with joy’. Such joy was promised
in the Old Testament: “I create Jerusalem to
be a delight. I will take delight in Jerusalem
and rejoice in my people” [Isaiah 65,19]. “Be
glad and rejoice with all your heart, daughter
Jerusalem. The king of Israel, the Lord, is
in your midst; he will rejoice over you with
gladness; he will show you his love once more;
he will exult over you with loud singing” [Zephaniah
3,15]. It is perhaps worth reminding ourselves
that joy is not always the same thing as happiness,
because happiness tends to come and go in human
experience, while real joy is deeper and lasting
and can remain even in difficult circumstances.
As a result of sharing in the mind of Christ,
their [and our] relationship with him has changed.
The disciples are not servants or slaves. Servants
depend on their master’s whim. Rather they are
‘followers’, ‘disciples’, men and women in the
process of learning. They are to be friends,
intimate and esteemed, and loved without limit.
Jesus has chosen these disciples as friends
and sends them out. To tell the result of their
mission he goes back to the image of the vine:
they will bear fruit that will last. Because
they have been chosen and sent out as friends
by Jesus to bear fruit, they will turn to the
Father and he will hear them. The reading ends
with Jesus repeating his commandment which is
at the centre of it all: “Love one another.”
Nowhere does he specify what fruits should be
aimed for, but they will come and they will
last, because they result from the lives of
people in touch with the mind of Christ.
• The words ‘love’ or ‘loved’ occur nine times
in today’s gospel. The same may be true of the
lyrics in the charts. Yet there are still children
who are neglected, or abused, or who are hungry.
There are those whose hearts have been broken
by the behaviour of others. Relationships and
marriages can end in great hurt. What might
this gospel be telling me about what might go
missing from my relationships?
• To love is not the same
as to like. I can meet someone and not like
the cut of his jib, or the way he treats his
dog, or because he boasts too much. That may
be my reaction to him, but it should not influence
my behaviour towards him [though I can object
to the suffering inflicted on the dog]. When
I treat someone whom I cannot stand the sight
of with courtesy and respect, it is in fact
an act of virtue. To love someone does not mean
that you have to feel good about him or her.
Treat him well and I may come not just to love
him but even to like him a bit.
• “I call you friends.” Intimate
and trusted. “I chose you and sent you.” How
does that make me feel? Will it overcome my
fear of being different?
• How can I carry out the
mission of being sent? Could I not just keep
a low profile? Do I actually believe it?
• The opposite of love is
more usually indifference rather than hate.
Do I care less?